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Does PA Pre-K Funding Story Have Happy Ending?

April 16, 2012

HARRISBURG, Pa. - State funding for pre-K in Pennsylvania sits in the top ten among all states, but a new report says the dollar signs are headed in the wrong direction. The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University is out with its State of Pre-School Study.

Director Steven Barnett says Pennsylvania has a problem making pre-K accessible.

"When it comes to access, Pennsylvania is in the bottom half of the states; only 16 percent of four-year-olds have access to a Pre-K program."

Barnett says the access issue in Pennsylvania is pretty straightforward. It's a matter of cost in most cases.

"Lower-income families, even middle-income families, who don't receive any public help can't afford it any more than they could afford high-quality higher education."

Barnett says that, in assembling the report, his group looks at a number of areas not limited to a child's early encounter with the Three Rs.

"Pre-school is also where they learn to take turns, to get along with each other, to develop lifelong habits of thinking before they act, of making plans. It's also important for learning foundations."

The study says pre-K funding in the state has dropped off about $850 per child in the past three years. There are about a billion dollars in cuts to pre-K through 12th grade school and library funding in the 2011-2012 state budget, with another $124 million worth included in the governor's latest budget proposal.

See the complete study at www.nieer.org.

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - PA